I recently lost three maternal extended family members within a period of months. The only surviving member of my mother’s family lives in Canada She went to the USA in the early 1960s and after she graduated, moved to Canada. I lived with her for a few years when I was in my teens and still keep in touch.
The passing that impacted me the most was an uncle by marriage. He was the husband of a favourite aunt who I’ve written about in another post. He was our rock in a large, loud, loving but somewhat dysfunctional family system that warred over a handsome legacy left by my grandfather. My uncle died recently. Right to the end, he was still cooking for family and visitors, still painting and still genteel in his grooming. I miss him. Last year I wrote him a letter for his birthday. His preteen grandson read it to him while Uncle C was ironing his own shirt, in his nineties. That’s the kind of man he was.
“I was four years old and a flower girl at Aunty N’s wedding. My dress was of pastel organza, my shoes were mary janes with flowers cut out in the leather across the foot. On my head a crown of tiny rose buds. My head in those days was encased in natural curls, which delighted adults. I remember how I felt more than what I wore. How I felt is a memory you generated and I have kept.
At the reception you were quietly busy with the setting up of the wedding cake. When it was time for the bridal couple to cut it, the lights were turned low and the guests hushed by anticipation. The cake, covered with iced pink roses and fronds of fresh fern lit up from hidden fairy lights. At eye level, to the four year old flower girl, it was a magic mountain. Your creativity is my earliest recollection of experiencing sheer joy.
Over the years, it is your presence that I remember most from afar. You were always well groomed, even when emerging from your bedroom in PJs. Your hair combed and slicked back. You always looked fresh, like you just shaved. Your clothes never had a wrinkle. Only those who have visited hot and humid Mumbai will appreciate how difficult this is! You spoke quietly and when it was necessary. Your pace always even, I have never seen you rushed. You were and still are, the epitome of good taste. You were an executive in your professional life. Your skills in leadership were innate. You commanded and continue to command respect from others, by your quiet presence.
Your home, the old apartment, I remember like my own home, was a product of your sensibilities.
The loss of Aunty O has not diminished with time for those who loved her. The loss of your wife is, I’m sure, unquantifiable. You are dignified, even in the face of loss. She left you with love in your life, as your children and grandchildren walk beside you today. You are a role model to us in so many ways on how life goes on.
When we talk on the phone, we play a quick game of ‘hello, how are you’. I am never able to really talk to you because I feel so emotional. Today, I wanted you to know, the void left behind by Dad has been habitable, because of your presence in my life. I love you dearly.”
This memory has surfaced today because I remember the chaos of family weddings in India. When my sister got married we had 50+ ‘house’ guests who were put up at a nearby hotel with my parents picking up the tab. They came over for their meals every day for over a week. It was a frenetic time of love, laughter and fun with aunts, uncles and cousins. The chef who cooked during that time had an interesting contract. He brought an army of helpers, set a daily price that included a bottle of rum which he proceeded to drink as he cooked.
With my son’s wedding on the horizon, our experience is so different. We are working to lists and keeping it simple. So very unlike experiences reminiscent of early childhood. Somehow I feel Uncle C would approve of our simple plans.
Until next time
a dawn bird
Word of the Day Challenge: reminiscent